Central Texas Bee Rescue Inks Honey of a Deal
No-kill bee removers become of one hive mind with Omni Hotels
By Claire Gordon, 9:20AM, Thu. Feb. 20, 2014
Last year, Walter Schumacher, founder and ‘bee czar’ of Central Texas Bee Rescue entered into a partnership with the W Hotel, transforming an unused rooftop into an apiary housing millions of rescued bees. Their rooftop honey is featured prominently on the menu at W’s TRACE restaurant and used in treatments at the AWAY spa.
Building on the success of the program, Schumacher confirmed earlier this week that CTBR is entering into a partnership with Omni Hotels. Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa is having 100 hives installed over the next month, to be stocked with bees in late April, once the weather is warm enough. The rescue will be installing an apiary on every Omni property in Texas, as well as building an infrastructure for the rescue in the surrounding county.
Although generally non-aggressive, honeybees can still cause damage with a sting, especially to someone with an allergy. There is an old saying that no man wants to share his house with a creature that can sting him. Actually, that might not be a very well-known saying, but it’s valid nonetheless.
The bees are also dying out in record numbers. The USDA has said that 30% of feral bees have died out in recent years, due to extermination and Colony Collapse Syndrome. Without a concerted effort to preserve them, bees face extinction, which would in turn devastate plant species that depend on them for pollination. Schumacher estimates that Travis County pest control officers exterminated 10,000 hives in 2013. Aiming to reduce that number, CTBR helped introduce a city ordinance that emphasizes removal rather than destruction when dealing with wild bees.
Rather than exterminating the insects, CTBR removes the hive as gently as possible, and take it to one of their apiaries. The service is free, although they ask for donations if possible. The honey collected from re-homed hives is sold under the Wild Honey brand, as well as included in other treats, such as local favorite ChocoSutra. All of the profit from Wild Honey goes toward sustaining CTBR’s mission of donation based, no-kill bee removal.
Omni will be using some of the honey in their restaurants and spas, with the remaining honey to be packaged and sold in hotel stores, online, and in mini-bars. Last year saw the rescue of an estimated 500 hives, this year he expects to relocate up to 2,000 in Travis County alone. As apiaries are installed at Omni Hotels in Houston and Dallas, another 500 hives could be rescued in each town.
Schumacher’s partnership with W Hotels has allowed him to increase the size of his operation, and working with Omni will set up the non-profit to operate on a national scale.
As the Central Texas Bee Rescue work and grow with Omni Hotels, they are determined to continue removing hives on a strictly donation-only basis. Selling products at the hotels will cover the cost of rescues, and saving the bees will always be Schumacher’s main goal. Bees, he says, are not here to attack anyone, so we shouldn’t attack them. Just call CTBR, he says, and they will come and take care of the problem for you.
Central Texas Bee Rescue and Lenoir are teaming up to host a Honey Bee Benefit dinner on Sunday, February 23. The four-course dinner, featuring CTBR's Wild Honey, is priced at $40 a person, and half of the proceeds will help sustain the rescue.